Pollens can cause sneezing, congested sinuses, runny and itchy noses, and itchy eyes as well as trigger dangerous asthma symptoms.
While many people with pollen allergies know they can reduce their exposure by staying indoors on days with a high pollen count, on windy days or after thunderstorms, the council believes few will be aware that the family car can be an unexpected source of pollen exposure – even with the windows rolled up!
A National Asthma Council Australia review of leading new car models in Australia has found that some models don’t have particulate filters installed as standard, and far fewer have activated carbon filters.
Properly fitted particulate filters should trap dust, pollens and fungus spores, while activated carbon filters are intended to filter toxic, unpleasant and smelly gases, which can also trigger asthma symptoms.
Surprisingly in one of the world’s most asthma affected countries, Holden’s Commodore and Ford’s Falcon do not come with cabin air particulate filtration as standard, although it is an option.
No Holden model has activated carbon filters.
Toyota, Hyundai, Mazda and Nissan models have particulate filters, but not activated carbon filters.
All Volkswagen models have particulate and activated carbon filters.
When it comes to investing in a new car, anyone with a family member affected by asthma or allergies needs to look beyond options such as metallic paint, to ask what’s actually under the bonnet and ensure that proper air filtration is included. Moreover, this is not just a comfort issue, as deaths occasionally occur as a result of loss of control of a car due to the driver’s vigorous sneezing.
Where filters are fitted it is really important to have them changed regularly – annually is optimal, although some manufacturers indicate a less frequent change.
Older cars are less likely to have effective filters, either because they were not fitted, or because they may not have been replaced.
Car air ducts should also be periodically cleaned to reduce the growth of mould (which can also be the source of allergens) and to help improve the efficiency of air-conditioning systems.